A success story brings out the hate

Today’s Star Tribune letter to the editor relays the horror of being the subject of a heartwarming news feature in today’s social media environment, especially if you don’t look like much of Minnesota.

It’s from Abdi Mohamed of Minneapolis. He and his family were featured in a story last week about how Habitat for Humanity is helping families.

“We are chasing the American dream. We have unlimited opportunities,” Mohamed said in the story. He’s planning to enroll at the U of M. He wants to be an immigration lawyer someday.

His dream is everything good about this country.

But this country also has comment sections on the Internet, where those hiding behind anonymity attacked Mohamed and his wife for getting something for nothing, a further confirmation of the ignorance that doesn’t keep people from touching a keyboard.

Nothing can infuriate some people like the success of someone else.

It was all a bit much for Mohamed, whose family gamely tried to defend itself in the comments before giving up and turning to the opinion page instead.

Boy, the response from Star Tribune readers — on Facebook and on the paper’s website — was swift, fast and furious, with all of the negative and hateful comments directed toward me and my family. They questioned our American nationality and often referred to us being “immigrants.” Yet my wife is a fifth-generation, native-born Minnesotan and I am a citizen of 12 years. No doubt, the reason they kept calling my wife an immigrant is because she was wearing hijab or a headscarf. One comment said, “Please take off the burqa and don’t allow your husband to dictate your life and harass you And why are these immigrants getting all of this free housing while Americans are suffering?”

I don’t think this awful name-calling would have happened had we had American-sounding names. We have always considered ourselves American, by any measure, and have been good citizens, paying our fair share of taxes and volunteering in our community.

But my faith as a Minnesotan is shaken. I have been calling Minnesota my home for the last 17 years, and my kids were born right here in Minneapolis. My take from the readers is that “you don’t belong here in America.” I hope, my fellow Minnesotans (in the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.), that one day my kids “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

He found immediate support in the comments to his letter. But it’s still early.